|Getting the answer to this question is |
goal of the fourth sector.
Lucky for small museum folks, there are three organizations who want to help you in this effort and propel you to meet best practices. The American Association for State and Local History, the American Alliance of Museums, and Heritage Preservation have developed assessment tools that help you put work in perspective, educate board and staff, kick start planning, and provide funding leverage.
The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organization (StEPs) “is a voluntary assessment program for small- and mid-sized history organizations. The program, created by AASLH with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), encourages awareness and achievement of national standards.” This self-directed assessment process is a great way to get the ball rolling.
If you feel like the opinions of an outside professional and a more intensive self assessment process is what your organization needs, then you should look at MAP and CAP.
The Museum Assessment Program (MAP) “helps small and mid-sized museums strengthen operations, plan for the future and meet national standards through self-study and a site visit from a peer reviewer. IMLS-funded MAP grants are non-competitive and provide $4,000 of consultative resources and services to participating museums.”
Heritage Preservation’s Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) “provides a general conservation assessment of your museum's collection, environmental conditions, and site. Conservation priorities are identified by professionals who spend two days on-site and three days writing a report. The report can help your museum develop strategies for improved collections care and provide a tool for long-range planning and fundraising.” CAP provides over $7,000 in consultative resources and services, sending a conservator and historic preservation professional (if applicable) on site.
Ultimately, with an assessment in hand and an organizational commitment to keep moving forward, you will have board, staff, and volunteers on the “same page” which promotes efficiency and strengthens your chances for successful implementation of goals. You also have a good benchmark to help you see when you’ve arrived at a goal. You can look back and demonstrate for others where you’ve been which will fuel the new momentum you have.
And, you have a case to make to funders. Do you need collections storage shelving? A new computer? Funding for a museum educator? Any one of these formal assessments offers excellent justification in a grant application, foundation proposal, or case statement for a potential donor.
With just one of these formal assessments in hand, you will know what kind of institutional planning you need – strategic or operational – and you will have a sense of what planning time frame you need. To take the next planning steps, read “DIY Strategic Planning” in the Small Museum Toolkit, or tap the rich library of planning publications. Here are a few to get you started. Good luck!
Bryson, John M. and Farnum K. Alston. Creating and Implementing Your Strategic Plan: A Workbook for Public and Nonprofit Organizations, 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2005.
How To Do Traditional Brainstorming
Lord, Gail Dexter and Kate Markert. The Manual of Strategic Planning for Museums. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2007.
Merritt, Elizabeth E. and Victoria Garvin, editors. Secrets of Institutional Planning. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2007.
McNamara, Carter. Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation. Minneapolis: Authenticity Consulting, LLC, 2003.
Skramstad, Harold and Susan Skramstad. Handbook for Museum Trustees. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2003.
Working in museums for nearly 20 years, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko has been a museum director since 2001. Cinnamon became CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine in 2009. Before that, she was the director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where she led the organization to the National Medal for Museum Service.